I feel the same way about Writing With Ease…I almost ALWAYS have to tell them to shorten their narrations and prompt them for “correct” content. If feels very unnatural and I’m skeptical about that…..
Amanda, Susan Wise Bauer is a very smart lady and she’s done a lot of good for homeschooling. She doesn’t, however, understand exactly how CM methods work, and she has a philosophical viewpoint different from mine. I’ve read a number of her books, and in fact we followed TWTM for a year (a miserable year!) before we began switching. It’s a complicated subject, but in my opinion CM much better described and fit my children than did TWTM. So I don’t really pay much attention to her. I do agree with her that most writing by new college students is atrocious; I differ with her in the idea that prescribing lots of rule-laden writing assignments at a young age will help with that.
One thing she charges is that CM (she is taking on Catherine Levison, here, specifically of course–and Levison’s writings are very, very helpful but very BRIEF and IMO more info is needed to get the most of of the CM philosophy). One thing she says is that JUST reading good literature won’t necessarily make a good writer. Well, yes. That is true. But that’s not at all what I was suggesting. I’m suggesting reading, NARRATION, copywork, dictation, and incidental instruction in a variety of topics as they come up in writing. That is NOT at all the same as “just reading”–in fact, this is a full and very busy course of action that occupies my three boys during LA time quite well. I personally find that lots of “short, skill-building assignments” assigned at young ages produce children who are really good at—short, skill-building assignments. This is ALSO not at all the same as “writing” I ABOLUTELY agree that tossing in a kid in junior high and telling him to write an essay is unfair and likely to be unproductive. HOWEVER, I believe that the HARD part in high school writing is in HAVING SOMETHING TO SAY. CM students who care about and interact with the material they read have something to say. Kids drilled in grammar and “skill-building assignments” often have nothing to say beyond the fact that they hate grammar and skill-building assignments. I’d a hundred times rather take a 14yo who has opinions and passions and ideas and can’t punctuate, use parallel phrases correctly and mistakes “lay” and “lie.” I can fix that in fifteen minutes. I CAN’T do much with a kid who has great grammar but has no opinion at all on what happened to David Copperfield. I’d also personally consider a child who can fluently tell me what Heidi just did, and saw, and felt, but who did not compose an “essay” about it yet, to be years ahead of a child who can only “summarize” and has lost all the heart and passion and sensory detail of the passage. I think it is harder to express your thoughts than it is to conform to all the little “rules”. When I write, I write it all down first. THEN I revise. In that process, I fix my errors. My thoughts are down. Now I can concentrate on the form. And it is NOT hard to teach this. Does it take some instruction and some practice? Sure. But it is NOT unduly difficult and one could spend half an hour a week with a ninth grader who owns and can use a style guide and get it done. One does not have to begin learning it in the second grade. Were that so, I’d have been sunk because until I was a junior, I had NO effective writing instruction at all. I read a lot (not always great literature) and I’d had one semester of formal grammar (in the ninth grade). But I sure had a lot to say! (I’ve changed so much ) A kind teacher spent a little time with me polishing up my pieces and I did well, in high school, college, grad school, and beyond into real life.
I am so glad I chose another way for my sons. I just had the funniest time today going over a writing piece with my 15yo. He wrote the FUNNIEST account of a summer hiking trip he took in Colorado. He had a GREAT paper. We spent about twenty minutes fixing a few technical problems and he has a very nice piece. He’s still not doing great at paragraphing. But that is so easy to discuss with him. He and I both simultaneously “paragraphed” his paper to see if we did it the same, and decide how to do it. (he wrote one big paragraph.) THAT was easy. I’m glad I have a kid with a great sense of humor, who can read an essay (he read one by James Fenimore Cooper, based on Izaak Walton’s The Compleat Angler) and then find something from his own life to say about it. We’ve done short courses on grammar and on essay form in junior high, and we continue now (he’s a sophomore) to go over further issues as they come up, like the paragraphing. He didn’t need to have it banged into his head at 10. In fact, if I’d have spent those years banging in grammar and writing rules, maybe he wouldn’t have the fund of vocabulary, experiences, humor, and previous models that he drew on to write this paper. Just something to think about!JanellParticipant
I agree with Bookworm. I think oral and written narrations are very powerful.
I think that using a scripted tool to help formulate narrations may help some people. I have learned the hard way that my children struggle with a scripted program. One, it is more teacher intensive (I have 7 children), and two, it stifles their personal style. I just set a standard (daily, one-page, neat), and then they can meet it in their own way.
My children write a one-page narration daily that is immediately edited with me. This personal one on one editing time is our main writing program. One of my boys is a reluctant writer. When I give him something scripted or assigned to write about, he struggles. When I give him the the freedon to write, with a one-page limit, about something from his personal reading, he eventually gains altitude after some flapping of wings and soars…really soars (his papers are so fun to read). My daughter needs the page limit reminder because she is our family’s novelist. With daily writing, I get the good, bad, and ugly. But I always have at least one great writing page from someone that must be read aloud to Daddy. He loves that. So, expect a mix between good and bad “hair days” and realize that we need not be so insecure about our children’s writing abilities.
Currently, my children are each reading from a biography and writing a page narration each day about their person. They are writing reports without realizing it, and it reminds me of an essay that I wrote in the fourth grade about the photojournalist Dorothea Lange which won an essay contest. This essay was outside of my regular school assignments, but I was so moved by Dorothea’s dramatic black and white photos. My method was simple: check out all the books about her from the library, and write about things in her life that moved me personally.
Essay writing is actually a stylized, opinionated written narration. I agree with Bookworm that outlines/formats can be taught quickly especially after consistent training in oral and written narrations. I feel that the consisitent reading of quality literature and narrations are the key ingredients to essay writing. Sometimes it is hard for me to remember that my young children’s brains will grow up with their bodies…that a 15 year old will write more maturely than when he was 10 years old. The thought that narrations do not provide enough foundation for higher level writing is a myth.
Bookworm, this has me laughing out loud… “(I’ve changed so much )”
I for one want to thank you for everything you have said here on this thread. You were gracious in your comments about SWB, and I appreciate that. But you were very persuasive in your arguments against what she says. That is important to me because I have been somewhat swayed by her in the past. Now I feel I have clear, sound reasoning for WHY we choose do language arts the CM way, not the SWB way. I know it must have taken some time to write it all out. I’m grateful to you. 🙂
Thanks again! I really appreciate your insight.
Thanks for chiming in on this as well. Also appreciated!livkenParticipant
Just wanted to thank you all for your very helpful posts! This is the subject area which gives me the most angst. Very encouraging.
Thank you so much for your insight, wisdom, and clarity on the writing issue, Michelle! I have been truly inspired by your posts.
Thank you, Bookworm, and everyone else for your insight into this area. I’m feeling a shift to maybe jump the writing program boat. It feels freeing, if I can get the full confidence to do it:)
Bookworm, what do you use to teach essay form in Jr. Hi.? Any insights into what to use in h.s. for essays, persuasive papers, style? Thanks for any input. I’d sure love to start next week without so much grammar/writing stress….and so would my daughter, I’m sure:) Blessings to you all, Gina
Gina, I’ve used Apologia’s Jump In with both my older boys; the jury is out whether I am using it with the third one. I tend to do it in the 8th grade and I skip the narrative writing and poetry writing sections. I don’t know if I will continue it or whether I will use AG’s simple essay program; I also have their research paper program and it is simple, easy to use and my oldest is using it this year.
I get essay topics from myself 🙂 from questions I have when I read the books, from the occasional lit guide (I’ve paid for Total Language Plus and Lightning Lit, at times, to get essay questions mostly, and gotten free ones online). I look up funny essay topics (places like the University of Chicago, for example, for quirky question examples to spark some creativity.) There are some books that are really helpful, too, like style and usage guides, depending upon preference. I like the MLA and Chicago ones. Many people really like EB White’s The Elements of Style. I like Style: Toward Clarity and Grace by Joseph M. Williams for high school students. Very readable.momto2blessingsParticipant
Thanks, Michelle….that’s very helpful. I have a lot to think and pray about now! Blessings, and thanks for all your time:) GinaHeatherParticipant
Bookworm…WOW! Thank you for your response to my post! I just have one question, how do you really feel about writing programs for 4th graders? Your response was so vague, I’m not sure where you stand…
I’m just kidding. I so much appreciate your insight and encouragement and wisdom! I understand so much better now about the process and the reasons why we are doing things in this manner. I am going to have to just trust the process and quit worrying about “my expectations” being met with my dd when it comes to LA. Your comment hit the nail on the head when you mentioned the friends with children who are producing loads of writing and I get a narration about dolphins that literally states “They can jump higher than a basketball hoop.” In fact, that one liner was the whole spark that set this thread afire in the first place! I can tell you’ve been there and you have felt what I was feeling. Thank for taking the time with us to help us work this subject out, as it has been a constant nagging in my mind about “not enough, not enough”.
Thank you to everyone else who chimed in as well, I love this board so much!
And to amandajhilburn: Please don’t leave this board! You have helped me countless times, although I don’t always say thanks , and you are a very valuable member of our SCM family!JulieParticipant
I’m chimming in after reading and enjoying this thread! I want to say thank you as well for all the wisdom that has been shared! My dd is only in first grade, but I have rolled around the whole “writing program” thing for a while and this thread has definetly helped me out!!kerbyParticipant
Oh, my! This thread has been wonderful for me! I was starting to relax w/ my younger crew and have always wondered about this. This has given me the courage to continue.
But, it has also created some questions/concerns for me. These are ones I’ve had but didn’t quite know how to ask. I might still mess it up, but hopefully someone will understand.
. . .
I have older dc, who have been in the “system” and have used a more typical approach. Ds in 8th, I think I can still work w/ – I’m just not quite sure how. But, what about my ds in 10th. He really has been “brainwashed” and is so stuck in the system. Between that and his LD’s in the language areas, this is one thing that has really been my nemesis. Just for background info – I always struggled in school because I couldn’t write the way they wanted me to. Now, I could easily write an A paper, on my own. But to break it down the way they wanted me to – idea, intro/closing paragraphs, outline, rough draft, final – I always felt stymied and locked in. My openings/closing always just came about in the writing process. My organization of the paper also happened as I went, after having a general idea when I started.
I was also an avid reader. Maybe not all good books (probably most was twaddle), but words and how they fit together always came naturally. My concern now is that both these older boys do not like to read – at all (particularly the oldest w/ his LD’s). And, especially for the oldest, I dont’ have enough time to make up for those “lost years.”
OK. Maybe I should have started another thread. Maybe it does go well in here. This is all so new to me and it’s so different. (In a good way, and one I want to pursue. It’s just hard to do sometimes.) Can anyone help me? I feel like I’ve let my older boys down, like I’ve even failed them at times. Besides the fact that time is such a huge part of all of this – the lack of it anyway. (OK. That probably should totally be in another thread but it does show where I am at the moment.)
oh, sigh – parenting is tough enough already. LOL
LOL, Heather, if it makes you feel any better, when my ds had just turned eleven, I was using a program emphasizing writing about what interested the child. We went to the Omaha Zoo, and ds was over the moon with joy. He chattered ALL the way home (4+ HOURS) about what we saw and did and what he thought. This’ll be easy, I thought–he’ll LOVE to write about what he saw! Monday morning, I hand him a sheet of paper. We title it “Our Trip to the Zoo” and he goes downstairs, comes back twenty minutes later with this: We went to the zoo. (Picture the look on my face here.) So I explain that I want him to tell all about what we DID at the zoo. Twenty minutes or so later, he comes back with this: We went to the zoo. We saw some animals. (Grrrr!) So I emphasize that I want him to tell me all about how he FELT. Thirty minutes later he comes back with : We went to the zoo. We saw some animals. It was fun. (If you heard some strange knocking sounds one day back in 2004, it would have been my head hitting the wall after that one.) That same kid eventually turned in a persuasive paper that convinced me to ditch The Age of Fable, wrote a children’s guide to keeping reptiles as pets, wrote an impassioned history of the Linux movement, and gave me a paper last year evaluating Thanatopsis that was better than one I did in college. He’s currently put aside a research project trying to convince me that Pearl Harbor was intended by they US. He’s working on admissions essays now. As Janell mentioned–they DO grow. They change. You may think they are impossibly shallow, just “not getting it” and terribly behind, and then one day you get this flash and you think “This is my kid?”kerbyParticipant
Bookworm, that is soo encouraging! Thank you!!
- The topic ‘Writing program advice’ is closed to new replies.